Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Dragon Reborn Read-through #8: A Map of the City of Tear

A Map of the City of Tear

by Dominic

About the map of the City of Tear:

No map of the city of Tear has appeared in the books of the series so far. One was however commissioned to Elisa Mitchell (who also designs the books' maps) for the out-of-print RPG book. My map of the city was inspired by her layout, with some changes. The accuracy of Mitchell's map has often been called into question for its apparent conflicts with the books. It was worth investigating further, as there are other obvious errors on the colour maps from the RPG book, for example on the Caemlyn map: Mitchell corrected various problems with the design of the Inner City, as her black-and-white map published in EOTW did not depict it accurately, neither the Queen's oval plaza in front of the palace, nor the streets that meandered on the biggest hill on which the palace is built, up to very close to the palace's walls (as the episodes where Rand and later Mat climb up a slope visible from the street to the top of the wall showed). She also corrected problems with Lower Caemlyn, not depicted accurately on her original map.

However, she also introduced some new inaccuracies: by making the streets layout of New Caemlyn more realistic (and the buildings better in scale - Caemlyn on the original map was mostly empty spaces, parks and over-large buildings, with nowhere near enough smaller buildings for its size and population) she also introduced major errors, for instance she got rid of the straight wide boulevard with a row of trees in the middle that runs from the Whitebridge Gate to the Sunrise Gate (to Aringill), described exactly like this in The Dragon Reborn, notably - and appearing on her original layout.

And what about the map of Tear? Two main points about the map have caused problems to readers, and those who've participated in 'WoT map making' discussions before are familiar with them: the location of the city on the Erinin and the location of the Stone of Tear within the city.

The conflict with Robert Jordan's book begins with this quote from Egwene's POV of her arrival in Tear:

"As the Darter wallowed toward the docks of Tear, on the west bank of the River Erinin." (The Dragon Reborn, Following the Craft)

Mitchell rather located the city on the Eastern bank. However, this isn't a mistake from Mitchell, the error is Jordan's (or his editor's - or he gave Egwene a poor sense of orientation) own in that passage of The Dragon Reborn, as a survey of a few further episodes in the city will demonstrate. To the best of my knowledge, this error has not been corrected in newer editions, though apparently Robert Jordan acknowledged it to some readers at book signings (others say they could not remember if he said the map or the books were wrong, but that he acknowledged the conflict).

The first problem with Egwene's description of her arrival is that it contradicts Perrin's arrival in the same book. Moiraine's group has travelled over land from Illian. If Tear stood on the Western bank, they would have entered it directly through a Gate in the walls. They rather took a ferry and docked in the Maule, the port district, just like Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne (and Mat and Thom) did earlier, which means the city has to stand on the Eastern bank:

The afternoon sun was hot as the ferry docked in Tear; puddles stood on the steaming stones of the dock, and the air seemed almost as damp to Perrin as Illian's had. (The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer)

But how can we decide which description is right between two conflicting ones? There is of course the matter that with Egwene it's a simple editing error, west bank for east bank, while with Perrin it's a major scene construction blunder. Further episodes confirmed the editing error in the Egwene chapter:

In The Shadow Rising, Perrin leaves the Stone through an eastern gate, rides through the city and take the Eastern Gate, travels some leagues to the location of the old Ogier Grove and use the Waygate there. This indicates, of course, that the city is on the Eastern bank of the Erinin, and that Perrin took the road to Godan). Rand will take the same direction with the Aiel later, and reach the Portal Stone.

In The Dragon Reborn itself, there is a further bit of evidence (form a Mat POV), but we'll look at it further down the line. For now, it's established that Elisa Mitchell placed the city on the correct side of the Erinin.

The second problem the map has caused readers concern the location of the Stone within the city. The evidence of its location is clear, but Robert Jordan used 'left and right' instead of 'north or south', and with the erroneous Egwene quote it sparked a confusion.

First, we know for certain that the Stone is on the waterfront and has its own docks on the Erinin. It is thus to the west of the city. But is it north or south?

The most reliable evidence comes again from Perrin's POV. We established he took a ferry on the eastern shore and docked in the Maule, when he further observed:

As soon as the ramp at the end of the barge was lowered, he led Stepper up to the dock after Moiraine and Lan. The huge shape of the Stone of Tear lay off to their left, shadowed so that it looked like a mountain despite the great banner at its highest point. (The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer)

To have the Stone to his left as he led stepper down the ramp, it had to be situated to the North.

Finally, yet another confirmation comes from Mat, in Lord of Chaos. Intent on joining Rand's forces on the plain of Maredo, Mat and the Band are travelling on the eastern bank of the Erinin from the city of Maerone in Cairhien toward Tear. In the episode when Rand visits Mat to tell him he will be diverted by Gateway to Salidar instead, Mat mentions his original intention, which was to reach Tear and take there the ferry to the plains of Maredo. This is again a solid indication that the city is on the eastern bank.

I have not found further quotes to corrobate the location of the Stone (Perrin's and Mat's, however, are conclusive enough), but all the other quotes mentionning directions (in or out of the Stone) are compatible with Perrin's observation that the Stone is at the north-west corner of the city. For example, this quote from Mat's POV:

Whether the thing was a street or a plaza, he had followed it all the way around the Stone since nightfall; the only place it did not go was on the river side, where the Erinin ran right along the foot of the fortress, and nothing interrupted it except the city wall. That wall was only two houses to his right. So far, the top of the wall seemed the best path to the Stone, but not one he would be overjoyed to take. (The Dragon Reborn, Into the Stone)

Mat was within the city walls, more precisely just south of the northern wall, with the wall to his right, as he was turned to look at the Stone.

So, Elisa's Mitchell's basic layout of the city does not contradict the descriptions by Robert Jordan. There are a few details which are wrong and some I have sought to correct on my map:

- Mat clearly mentions (quote above) that the the 'wide plaza' surrounds the Stone on all sides except on the river front, and is interrupted only by the city walls. On Mitchell's RPG map, the plaza stops a the city's wall and doesn't appear on the north side. Rand confirms Mat's description in Knife of Dreams, commenting that the plaza surrounds the Stone on three sides.

It is likely there is some sort of 'low city' on that side (and that this lower city extends quite a bit further from the walls), and there's very likely a street from the Stone to the main north road (Semirhage sent Shadowspawn that way). In doubt, I did not depict them.

- Mat was able to walk the city's walls from rooftops all the way to the Stone and used explosives to create a breach. On Mitchell's map, the city's walls stopped quite short of the Stone's.

- In the episode of Sammael's attack, we have the confirmation that the Stone has its own docks. Mitchell had omitted them.

Another dubious element os the floor plan of the Stone that is hard to reconcile with the books, but the descriptions are so partial I left it as is.

The shape of the Stone may also be inaccurate. Jordan leaves the impression it is more squarish, but it is not fully conclusive.

I found no other obvious layout error (the city of Tear beside the Maule and the areas near the walls and gates is actually never described in much detail), so the rest of the map's elements follow Mitchell's layout.

That leaves the issue of the city's size. There is no scale on the map, but if the layout is accurate, then we can simply take Rand's estimation of the Stone's size ("a square mile of more", in Knife of Dreams, Within the Stone) to guess the city's size at roughly 7-8 square miles "or more". However, this contradicts Egwene's estimate (at first glance) that Tear is "easily as big as Tar Valon" (roughly 8 miles long and averaging 2 miles wide, less near the harbours, more in the south part where the Grove is) "or Caemlyn" (Elayne mentions in KOD that its outer walls run for 6 leagues, so twenty four miles of outer walls). According to Mitchell's layout ans scale, Tear would be significantly smaller than either. It may well be Egwene who, watching the city for the first time from the river, misjudged its size or that for her 'big is big' - or perhaps RJ revised the size of Tear years later, turning Egwene's comment into an error. In KOD, Rand mentions that from the Erinin the Stone reaches all the way to the heart of the city, which, at a square mile, wouldn't quite be the case if the city was as big as Caemlyn or Tar Valon. The description of his relatively short trip riding at a slow pace from a gate to the east to an inn in the city's center in KOD also suggests Tear is smaller than Caemlyn or Tar Valon.

Another possibility is that the 'lower city' outside the walls is considerably bigger to the north, south and east than what Mitchell depicted, as is the case with the Foregate of Cairhien (before its destruction) and the Lower City of Caemlyn that both stretch for some miles.

This map of the city of Tear was one of the first maps inspired by WOT I created, around 2007. I used a watercolour painting for the background, combined with a photograph I made of a blank 18th century book page, and elements inspired by those found in a 18th century Dutch atlas. Everything was composited and finalized using Illustrator and Photoshop.


- You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Dragon Reborn Round-Table open thread to leave a commentary of your own about any aspect of the book.

- Got any nagging question about a topic from The Dragon Reborn? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.

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